This image is meant to shock you.
It's meant to shock you into recalling that Aaron Hernandez, who is all of 24 these days, was once a promising NFL tight end for the New England Patriots. He was working his way through a five-year, $40 million contract that included $16 million in guaranteed money.
Now, his NFL career seems like three lifetimes ago.
Odin Lloyd. Daniel de Abreu. Safiro Furtado.
Try to remember these names. They were three souls who allegedly found themselves at the wrong end of a gun and the wrong end of Hernandez.
Three murders. That's as many people as those perished in the Boston Marathon Bombings. Hernandez's involvement in the murders of these three men is becoming the most nightmarish "sports" story New England has ever seen involving a single athlete. It will officially claim that spot once he is convicted and/or cops to one, two, or all three of those killings.
The region has never seen an athlete of his stature charged with such a pair of grisly and heartless crimes. The unimaginable and compressed terror wracked upon those at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 eclipsed Hernandez's purported crimes in the public consciousness for months, until Thursday's news that Hernandez was indicted by a grand jury in the 2012 shootings of de Abreu and Furtado in Boston.
His conceitful smirk via file footage was again present Thursday across ESPN, the internet, and social media, and on local and cable news.
Hernandez is entitled to the presumption of innocence when it comes to the courts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The court of public opinion, however, has no constitutional guidelines. People remain free to form their own opinions of someone whose violent past has been thoroughly and publicly documented before and since Lloyd's death, someone who was charged in Lloyd's killing, and now has been indicted in the shooting of two others.
O.J. was found not guilty, not innocent. The fact he wasn't convicted doesn't mean he didn't kill Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. It just means that if he did, he got away with it.
The 2012 shooting of de Abreu and Furtado includes a vehicle tied to Hernandez, the murder weapon, motive, and witnesses, including one who was shot by Hernandez himself, again allegedly.
Delude yourself with conspiracy theories and political correctness if it's too difficult to believe that one person could shoot and kill two people in a drive-by upon tracking them down after a nightclub scuffle, and then play a full season of pro football without a word of any of it surfacing publicly.
There's plenty of nutty scenarios available. Prosecutors in Bristol County, Suffolk County, the State Police, the Patriots, Bob Kraft, and Bill Belichick, the conspiratorial lunacy goes, colluded to frame Hernandez and want to make sure he's convicted so the football team might find salary-cap relief from his contract.
This nonsensical effort to frame Hernandez in two unrelated shootings comes despite the fact, we've been led to believe in certain quarters, that the Patriots were also complicit in the deaths of Lloyd, de Abreu, and Furtado because they drafted/signed/re-signed Hernandez.
You know, Bill Belichick drove the getaway car and Urban Meyer hid the murder weapon. Right.
It took the criminal justice and prosecutorial weight of the Commonwealth nearly two years to earn this indictment of Hernandez in de Abreu and Furtado's death. They were beyond deliberate.
The Patriots, however, were supposed to have known of his involvement in that shooting, and his other anti-social behavior, when they offered him a contract extension in August 2012, the message boards say.
[The families of de Abreu and Furtado each filed $6 million wrongful-death civil lawsuits against Hernandez this past February. They join a long line of suitors seeking to confiscate whatever wealth Hernandez has left after his attorneys get paid.]
De Abreu and Furtado had the fatal misfortune of meeting Hernandez in a nightclub called the Cure. There was a scuffle. No doubt, someone felt "dissed." The payback came, according to prosecutors, via a hail of bullets from an SUV driven by and a .38-caliber handgun fired by Hernandez.
"They were stalked, ambushed, and senselessly murdered on the streets they call home," Suffolk County D.A. Daniel Conley said announcing the grand jury indictments.
One could presume Hernandez's innocence or guilt based on his nonchalance when he arrived at Patriots' camp in that summer of 2012. His interview from July 27, 2012, recalled by Boston.com's Eric Wilbur yesterday, is chilling in a "House of Cards" sort of way.
His various realities are effortlessly compartmentalized.
Football right here, murder over there.
Hernandez was either someone without a care in the world, save for comprehending Bill Belichick's latest dual-tight-end scheme. Or he was someone who killed two people a few weeks earlier and doesn't have a care in the world save for comprehending Bill Belichick's latest dual-tight end scheme.
If Hernandez's press gaggle from that July 27 isn't disturbing enough in hindsight - check out the words spoken in the wake of his $50,000 donation to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund. It was made public by Patriots owner Bob Kraft in the days following Hernandez's contract extension that August.
Kraft's remarks at the team's charitable foundation gala demonstrate how well Hernandez had fooled the Patriots' owner - or convinced the team's owner not to believe what he knew.
"We know that both players [Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski] had issues coming out, so where we drafted them was not indicative of how good they really were, and I think both of them have really shined here ... That made me feel good ... Part of what we try to do is make them understand is that there is a psychic income involved in giving back both your time and your financial resources, if you can do that ... And I sensed that he was touched in doing that. We didn't request it, it's something that he decided. And to flip the switch from living modestly to all of a sudden having a lot of income, I think we have to work real hard to help our young men adjust to that."
Makes you wonder if there's anything else about Gronk out there we don't know about. All that partying, the funny tweets, and those dance videos seem so harmless and fun about now.
Here's Kraft when asked about Hernandez's past:
"I just think he's a super player and really a first-class guy. Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think. ... Maybe 10 years ago I was in that class, (now) I think, 'Wow, this guy's a good guy.' And we made a big commitment to him."
Tattoos? Is that all the Patriots' owner thought was troublesome about Hernandez?
Hernandez played the role of good citizen with masterful realism, telling ESPN.com:
"He changed my life. Now I'm able to basically have a good chance to be set for life, and have a good life. I have a daughter on the way, I have a family that I love ... I was happy playing for my [$250,000-$400,000 salary]. Knowing that my kids and my family will be able to have a good life, go to college, it's just an honor that he did that for me. He gave me this opportunity. The $50,000 to help his foundation, obviously, is basically like saying 'thank you' and it means a lot to me ... He trusts me to make the right decisions, it means a lot. It means he trusts my character ... They have to trust you to give you that money. I just feel a lot of respect and I owe it back to him ... I have a lot more to give back, and all I can do is play my heart out for them, make the right decisions, and live life as a Patriot."
Complete disconnect and completely cold-blooded.
If you're to believe what prosecutors in Bristol and Suffolk County say, Hernandez was guilty of murder three times. A killer cut out of the same mold as the fictional Michael Corleone, Congressman Frank Underwood [D-S.C.], or the very real teenagers who carried out the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Dave Cullen's book "Columbine" is a terrific piece of journalism. It provides a compelling real-life journey into the mind of two teenagers who were capable of planning and executing murder, killing people they knew for a long time and doing it without remorse. In "Columbine," we learned the two killers, who eventually committed suicide, actually had an exit plan in place. They planned to slip away after they blew up the school.
In the killings of de Abreu and Furtado, Hernandez drove around until he found their car and opened fire, allegedly. Lloyd and Hernandez knew each other for possibly two years before his death. They met through Lloyd's girlfriend, who is the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. On the night of Lloyd's death, Hernandez, Carlos Ortiz, and Ernest Wallace picked him up in Dorchester in a rented car before Lloyd was shot in North Attleborough.
Planning and execution before the actual execution, it appears.
Think Carlo about to head for the airport before Clemenza finishes him off with a garrote from the back seat.
The NFL has been a home to thugs of all racial and ethnic backgrounds for decades. Miscreants are also allowed to succeed as plumbers, truck drivers, bakers, construction workers, college professors, journalists, YouTube sensations, Hollywood actors, country singers, and rap stars. [Yet why is it only the NFL finds itself so often called out for this practice?]
Powerful and omnipotent men like Belichick and Kraft often think their money or will can change anyone.
Sure, he's an occasional thug, but we can handle him. We can change him.
Hernandez appears to fit the"cold-blooded, predatory psychopath" profile outlined in Cullen's book and the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which is commonly used to diagnose those who show the traits of a psychopath.
There are 20 traits listed on the chart. Judge for yourself how many apply to Hernandez, at least based upon what we know about him through reliable press reports:
Glib and superficial charm
Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
Need for stimulation
Cunning and manipulativeness
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
Callousness and lack of empathy
Poor behavioral controls
Early behavior problems
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Many short-term marital relationships
Revocation of conditional release
In my book, he's batting about 16 for 20.
In Cullen's "Columbine," the mastermind behind the shootings [Eric Harris] is portrayed through his journals, and the recollection of those who failed to recognize or halt his rampage of death as a charming, intelligent liar who had "a preposterously grand superiority complex, a revulsion for authority and an excruciating need for control."
In charging Hernandez with Lloyd's death last June, prosecutors said: "He orchestrated the crime from the beginning. He took steps to conceal and destroy evidence, and he took steps to prevent the police from speaking to ... an important witness."
Hernandez, as least as far as we know, didn't keep intricate journals of his thoughts. But Hernandez and Harris were able to consistently avoid punishment for misdeeds large and small. Each consistently convinced those in authority that they were just this close to turning their lives around.
"[Harris] was the type of kid who, when he was in front of adults, he'd tell you what you wanted to hear," Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis, who retired this year, told CNN in 2009.
Hernandez convinced so many people, from Meyer, to those pesky NFL security types, to the Patriots scouts, to Belichick, to Kraft, to Patriots fans, media [if there's a difference] and the rest of the NFL that while his past was murky, his future human and NFL potential was far brighter.
One can only guess how many times Hernandez said "that's in the past" and how many times he was believed, even by the best and brightest. This was more than just looking the other way because he could play football.
Hernandez fooled us all into thinking he was the person we wanted him to be.
He said what we wanted to hear, and did it with a smile. Everyone bought it.
And the cost might have been unimaginable.
The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist, Bay State native and Boston.Com columnist Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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